Random (but not really)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

How Do You Like Them Apples?

Yesterday on our hike I started to wonder about apples. Specifically: Why are apples typically portrayed as red?

The majority of apples we find at our Farmers Market are green or green & red. Yet when you think of an apple, you generally think of a shiny red apple. Why?

Considering that the most common red apple is the misnamed Red Delicious, which was bred not for flavor but looks and storage, it’s amazing that anyone would want to think about Red Delicious when they think “apple”.

Vaguely from my plant biology classes, I remembered that color was often dependent upon light. So might where apples were red be related to why red is seen as the color of apples? Were red apples more common in Europe?

But it’s even more complicated than that.

Apples do not breed true from seed. If you plant apple seeds you will not get an apple tree that bears the fruit of the apple you planted, most likely you’ll get a cider apple (which is what Johnny Appleseed was doing–planting seeds for cider apples, not the fruit).

You have to graft to get a reproducible apple variety.  So what grows in an area is dependent not just upon hardiness, but what humans have chosen to grow in any particular area.

Out of curiosity, I decided to look up what influences peel color in apples, and although light is important, temperature is also important, and colder temperatures increase anthocyanin production. Which makes sense in retrospect, since anthocyanis are protective. So you’ll get red apples where there is a lot of sun, but also where there are colder temperatures.

So red apples would seemingly be more likely to thrive in areas with harsher conditions (more UV or lower temperatures).

It still doesn’t make Red Delicious apples taste better, but it does help explain why we might have developed a preference for red apples.

(FWIW our other indepth discussion yesterday was use of silver to kill paranormal creatures and what kind of ammunition would be best (and easiest) to defend yourself. So don’t think that I spend my time pondering highfalutin topics.)

Red Color Development in Apple Fruit
Traverso, Amy. The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. W. W. Norton & Company.

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